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The U.S. Navy’s 3 Stealth Destroyers Are Joining an Experimental Drone Squadron

David Axe

David Axe

Security,

The squadron also will include at least two types of drone warship plus four early-production Littoral Combat Ships.

The U.S. Navy’s 3 Stealth Destroyers Are Joining an Experimental Drone Squadron

The U.S. Navy plans to assign its three Zumwalt-class stealth destroyers to an experimental squadron that will develop new tactics for naval warfare.

The squadron also will include at least two types of drone warship plus four early-production Littoral Combat Ships.

The plan does not prevent the Zumwalts from also deploying for front-line operations. All three of the radar-evading destroyers eventually will sail from San Diego.

The Navy on Jan. 26, 2019 commissioned into service the second Zumwalt, USS Michael Monsoor. The third ship in the class, Lyndon B. Johnson, is slated to commission later in 2019.

The Zumwalts’ 20-year journey into front-line service has been ... complicated. The experimental squadron is only the latest wrinkle for the stealthy vessels.

Work began on the class in the 1990s. The goal was to develop a large, heavily-armed and highly survivable ship. Over that decade the concept changed. With the Navy focusing more on near-shore warfare, the Zumwalt evolved into a stealthy fire-support vessel sporting powerful 155-millimeter cannons.

Costs rose. The Navy cut the class down from 32 ships to just three. But the research-and-development overhead contributed to the three ship's enormous, per-vessel cost of nearly $8 billion, which is four times as much as the latest Arleigh Burke-class destroyers cost.

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